As the summer months approach, you and your loved ones will be enjoying more and more time outdoors. The warmer temperatures are welcoming, but they can cause problems such as dehydration. This is especially true for the elderly. Senior dehydration can bring on many health complications, so it is important to make sure that those you care for are getting plenty of liquids throughout the coming season.
Why are Seniors at Risk?
The elderly are more susceptible to electrolyte and fluid imbalances for several reasons. One’s ability to conserve water is reduced as the body ages. This is why seniors have more trouble adjusting to fluctuating temperatures. In addition, their ability to sense thirst weakens. By the time they realize they need something to drink, essential fluids are already very low.
There are also medical reasons why seniors have trouble staying hydrated. Those with dementia may simply forget to drink enough liquids, and they may have difficulty swallowing as the disease progresses. In addition, medications such as antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, laxatives, and corticosteroids increase urination, and seniors with incontinence may avoid liquids in the hopes of preventing accidents.
Look for Signs of Dehydration
It is crucial that you watch for the warning signs of senior dehydration in those you care for. Initial symptoms include constipation, headaches, dry mouth or tongue, muscle cramps, and lethargy. The color of the urine also indicates dehydration. If your loved one is getting enough liquids, the urine will be clear to light yellow.
When dehydration isn’t caught, one can experience seizures as a result of the electrolyte imbalance, hypovolemic shock, heat injuries, kidney failure, and even the possibility of a coma or death. The following signs indicate severe dehydration.
• Little urination
• Dark colored urine
• Dry skin
• Dizziness, irritability, or confusion
• Low blood pressure
• Rapid heartbeat and breathing
• Weak pulse
• Cold feet and hands
How to Prevent Dehydration
The average adult requires 64 ounces of water each day to stay hydrated. This increases with warmer weather, higher humidity, and certain medications. If the senior you care for is sweating or urinating more often, their intake of liquids needs to be increased. You also need to monitor their fluid intake carefully if they are suffering from illnesses that cause vomiting, diarrhea, or a fever.
Ways to Increase Liquid Intake
Many seniors will refuse to drink more water. This is when you need to remember that essential liquids can come from more than just a glass of plain water. Begin by using water enhancers, mixing water with juice, serving pre-flavored water, or using fruit infused water. The temperature of a beverage can make a difference as well. Experiment by serving everything from room temperature drinks to ice water. They may prefer one over another.
You can also offer them a mix of sweet and savory options. The chicken or beef broth in soup feels more like a meal, and you may be able to get them to drink it instead. Those that have a sweet tooth may enjoy smoothies, popsicles, or milkshakes too.
Even the drinkware can make a difference when it comes to hydration. Seniors with limited vision may do better with a brightly colored cup while others may enjoy something pretty. Use anything that will catch their eye and entice them to drink more. You can also find cups made for specific problems. Cups with two handles, built in straws, or no-spill lids can greatly help those with poor motor skills, tremors, arthritis, or muscular weakness.
Liquids are not your only option when it comes to fluids. Raw fruits and vegetables are very hydrating and may be more appealing to your loved one. You can also add healthy ingredients to foods they already enjoy. For example, add berries to cereals and yogurt. Put lettuce and tomato on sandwiches and in wraps. It may not seem like you are not doing very much, but every little bit helps.
How LaBier Assisted Living Can Help
In addition to these tips for avoiding senior dehydration, you need to work together with other caregivers. The staff at LaBier Assisted Living works closely with residents to ensure they are getting the proper care. They can help work more fluids into every day meals as well as help you look for signs of more serious issues. If you notice any red flags, let them know. Together you can get your loved one the medical help they need to avoid the more serious issues relating to dehydration.